Of late the only way to beat Serena Williams is seemingly to injure her, but even that didn’t work Tuesday at the Australian Open. In the fifth game of her first round match against Edina Gallovits-Hall, the 5-time Australian Open winner severely rolled her right ankle.
After a considerable medical timeout and some anxious moments, a limping Serena returned to finish off her Romanian opponent in stunning fashion, 6-0, 6-0. But the real damage may come when she wakes up later today and tests the injury.
“I think I was really, really close to panicking because a very similar thing happened to me last year, almost on the same side, the same shot,” Williams said of her left ankle injury at Brisbane. “So I almost panicked, and I thought, I can’t do that. I just have to really remain calm and think things through.”
“I know one year I won this tournament and had two bone bruises in both knees,” she said. “I had no idea. I just knew I was in pain. I think sometimes what you don’t know cannot hurt you.
“Oh, I’ll be out there,” she said. “I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing. I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.”
Serena has won 17 straight matches and 36 of her last 37, and was the overwhelming tournament favorite, but you can’t heal an ankle playing tennis.
Simultaneously, top contender Victoria Azarenka came from a break down in the second to beat the slicer Monica Nicolescu, but didn’t seem concerned about her friend and rival’s tumble.
“I actually haven’t heard that because I was just off my match and doing my own stuff. I heard she won love and love, so what kind of injury are we talking about?” she joked.
American prodigy Sloane Stephens was also a winner as was 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm who upset No. 12 seed Nadia Petrova.
French Open finalist and No. 7 seed Sara Errani was the highest seed thus far to be eliminated.
On the men’s side, tournament favorites Roger Federer and Andy Murray both breezed in their openers. Federer, who hadn’t played a tour-level match in two months, had little trouble with Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.
“I’m obviously very happy with this first round match, so total control,” the 4-time champ Federer said. “He can be a tricky opponent, you know, but I guess his playing style doesn’t disturb me that much overall. I’m happy I was able to play a clean match out there today.”
Federer now meets Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko on Thursday in what is forecasted to be scorching conditions.
Meanwhile, Murray began the day destroying Robin Haase 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
“It was a good start,” said Murray after his 8th straight Slam match win. “I mean, it was very different conditions to what it’s been the last four, five days. So the court was playing much different. Bouncing a lot higher. It’s much livelier. I thought I did a pretty good job from the start of dictating the points and not giving him too many freebies.”
Big men Juan Martin Del Potro, Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic also advanced as did 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who won his sixth meeting with countryman Michael Llodra. Roanic, who is in Federer’s path, needed 30 aces and four sets to get through Jan Hajek.
In the evening, Aussie favorite Bernard Tomic took out a hapless Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 for his sixth ATP level win of the year, 9-0 if Hopman Cup is included. Tomic could clash with Federer come Saturday in the third round.
“Everyone expects and everyone draws it out before the tournament that probably we’re going to meet,” the 20-year-old Tomic said. “But you don’t know. Tennis is very strange. I have learned that last year. I played a lot of strange matches and lost a lot of matches I should have won.
“And obviously Roger is playing Davydenko now. It’s not easy. That’s a guy that’s also beaten him a few times before, so we have tough rounds. I’ve got to win next round.”
Gael Monfils was also an impressive winner at night edging Alexandr Dolgopolov in an entertaining match.
Tomorrow, Novak Djokovic returns as does David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Venus Williams, Sam Stosur, Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova.
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) v. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
Guillaume Rufin (FRA) v. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Jie Zheng (CHN) v. Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Rod Laver Arena 7:00 PM Start Time
Venus Williams (USA) v. Alize Cornet (FRA)
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Ryan Harrison (USA)
Hisense Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v. Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP)
Na Li (CHN) v. Olga Govortsova (BLR)
Tatsuma Ito (JPN) v. Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)
Misaki Doi (JPN) v. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
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